Tips for the Trail

Charlee says, ” YES” to trail hiking! 

More pets and their families head for the trails like never before, especially after a long North Idaho winter.  How can they help keep the trails enjoyable for everyone?

Here are a  few tips:

1. Be Prepared 

Things to carry on the trail:  Cell phone, “poop” bags, leash, and last but not least, doggie treats to reward your amazing pooch for calm manners on the trail!

2. To Leash or Not to Leash

Know our leash laws: Sandpoint City public rights of ways dogs must be on a leash; Travers, Farmin Park, and City Beach do not allow dogs; Lake View and Hickory Park, the limited leash is permitted; Ponderay Bay Trail, off-leash permitted (off-leash dogs must be easily controlled).

My dogs eagerly check-in by my side (on or off leash) when I reward them with yummy treats.  A 4 or 6-foot leash keeps them close when there’s lots of trail traffic.  I use a 15-foot long line when the trail or walkway is not  crowded.

3.  Greeting People and Dogs

How much socialization and interaction should happen between dogs, their people, and non-pet people?   That depends on the walker, the canine personalities involved- and if they clash.  Some examples include Happy Over-Excited Pooch, Nervous Nellie, I Don’t want to be bothered with You, and sometimes Cujo look alike.  You’ll need to determine what type your pet can mesh with.  Early communication with others on the trail can be super helpful.   Some dogs may be in training and their pet parents may not want your dog approaching them.

4.  Trail Goals

Make your goals realistic.  As a trainer and owner, my primary purpose on the trail is to allow exploration of other environments, exercise, and to practice calm behaviors in various social situations. Trail walks can also be a perfect time to reinforce the attention on me and not the other dogs.   I teach a “look” cue- when my canine’s eyes meet mine and then is rewarded with a yummy treat.  This can be an excellent distraction while we calmly walk past another dog.  The greatest skill for your dog during a walk is paying attention to you with the reward being polite behavior and a closer relationship.

5. Trail Etiquette

  • Leashed or unleashed- have your dog under voice control. Teach them Sit, Stay, Down, Leave it, Come, off–it could save their lives.
  • Yield to other walkers, bikers or families with children.
  • Respect the space of others: be it dogs or people. Ask for permission if your dog can greet another dog or person.
  • Advocate for your canine. It is appropriate to politely ask another owner to recall their dog or place them on a leash as you pass.  That way it becomes a pleasurable experience for all parties.

Walking the beautiful North Idaho trails is a pet parent’s dream.  Canine companions thrive on daily exercise and fresh air- every walk has the potential to strengthen the pet’s social skills and family bonding.  Enhance your training skills and develop reliable, safe trail behaviors for the thrill of enjoying nature with your best friend.

Debra Duwe, MA- KPA-CTP is a certified professional dog trainer by Karen Pryor Academy.  She offers on-line private lessons, in-home private lessons when possible and Day Training.  She also teaches classes at North Idaho Animal Hospital and Diamonds in the Ruff in Spokane, Washington.  Debra focuses on positive reinforcement and the powerful human/animal bond.  You can catch her at:  www.fourpawsdogtraining.com

This article was first published in  Sandpoint Living Local in June 2019










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